Our tennis tipster Andy Schooler has 16/1, 25/1, 33/1 & 40/1 picks for this week's ATP World Tour action.
There was plenty to like in what I wrote in last week’s preview as the events unfolded in Hamburg, Gstaad and Atlanta but sadly none of the three tips ended up delivering, Gilles Muller going closest before adding his name to my long list of semi-final losers.
This week the tour is again split between the Americas and Europe with the big tournament of the week, Washington DC’s Citi Open, seeing a host of top names start their US Open preparation.
They also play on the hardcourts in Los Cabos, Mexico, while the claycourters try to squeeze out more points in the tour’s final clay event of the season in Kitzbuhel.
Here are my thoughts on the action...
Recommended bets: ATP World Tour
Citi Open, Washington, outdoor hard
Nine of the world’s top 20 head to Washington as the US Open Series really begins to pick up speed and a high-quality field looks pretty tough to call.
With hardcourt tennis having been largely on the backburner since March, I wouldn’t be surprised to see several of the leading seeds fall early.
Court conditions are quick although the weather in the US capital at this time of year is usually hot and humid – the latter perhaps explains why the in-form John Isner has not quite had the results here that he has elsewhere, such as Atlanta.
To be fair, Isner has made three finals – the first back in 2007 when he announced his name to the world fresh out of college – but he’ll be coming into this year’s event after two solid weeks of tennis in first Newport and second Atlanta.
He’ll have his backers at 11/1 but for me there are plenty of reasons to look elsewhere.
I won’t be siding with either of the top two seeds though.
Dominic Thiem has played eight hardcourt tournaments in 2017 but has yet to go beyond the quarter-finals in any of them. He could also face 2014 runner-up Vasek Pospisil first up – it’s not hard to see an upset there.
At the bottom of the draw, Kei Nishikori, the 2015 winner, has requested a wild card in what appears to be a bid to get more matches under his belt. But the reason he wants those is this has been another injury-hit season and his body can’t be relied upon to be backing him at short prices. Well, 8/1 is short enough for me, any way.
Third seed Milos Raonic, another former champion here, is probably a better option at slightly shorter odds. He’s also had injury issues this term but looked better as he made the Wimbledon quarter-finals before running into the Roger Federer juggernaut.
The North American hardcourts suit the big-serving Canadian, although it’s somewhat concerning for anyone looking back to him that he’s not won a title for 18 months – his last coming in Brisbane at the start of 2016. Given he’s no bigger than 13/2, he’s not for me either.
With so many of the leading seeds packed together towards the head of the market, I’d rather take a chance on a couple of longer shots who could fit the bill this week.
I’ll start with Kevin Anderson, who appears to have found a nice part of the draw.
The big-serving South African has spent the last few months finding his feet again after a long injury absence and this time of year has often proved fruitful for him.
Having only returned to action in the spring, Anderson did manage to notch some decent claycourt wins, beating the likes of Nick Kyrgios, Kyle Edmund and Thomaz Bellucci on the dirt before heading onto the grass and reaching the Wimbledon last 16.
Essentially, he’s been gradually improving and this week’s draw may give him the opportunity to get stuck into the hardcourts too.
Thiem is a potential third-round foe and, significantly, Anderson leads that head-to-head 5-0, all the matches having been played on a hard surface.
The notoriously hit-and-miss Gael Monfils could follow in the quarter-finals. The Frenchman won here 12 months ago but the field was much weaker then with the tournament having moved slots in the calendar to accommodate the Olympics.
In short, there’s plenty in Anderson’s favour this week. Yes, he’ll need to raise his level again but with plenty of tennis now in his legs, the three-time Washington quarter-finalist is worth a small bet at 25/1.
On the other side of the draw, Steve Johnson is also worthy of consideration at 33/1.
He’s got decent course form having been to the semi-finals in each of the last two years, while he also made the last eight in 2014.
Johnson’s 2017 has not been particularly successful but his father’s death has had a part to play in that.
While it would be crass to suggest the American is now finished grieving, he’s now further down that path and clearly is in the right frame of mind to still be playing tennis.
Johnson is another who enjoys this time of year – as his Washington record suggests. He’s beaten Isner (twice), Ivo Karlovic, Bernard Tomic, Jack Sock and Grigor Dimitrov – all top-40 players at the time - at this tournament in recent years.
He could meet Dimitrov again in the third round this year but that’s nothing to worry about too much.
Possessing a decent serve, I believe Johnson can cause his rivals trouble in this section, including fifth seed Alez Zverev, another yet to go beyond the last eight of a hardcourt tournament in 2017.
A small-stakes bet is advised.
Abierto Mexicano de Tenis Mifel, Los Cabos, outdoor hard
A pretty weak field has gathered for the second staging on this tournament in the Mexican resort of Los Cabos.
The world number 180 gaining direct acceptance tells you much, although at least there are a few big names with five of the world’s top 30 in attendance.
They are led by Tomas Berdych but the golden rule of tennis betting is not to back the Czech at a short price.
Don’t get me wrong, he may well win, but he simply can’t be trusted at a best of 15/8. I’ll lose no sleep about not backing him if he’s lifting the trophy next weekend.
Those looking to make a case for him can show that six of the Wimbledon semi-finalist’s last seven ATP titles have come at this 250 level but I’d also point out that he’s won just one tournament in the last 22 months.
With this being his first hardcourt event since March, Berdych can easily be opposed in the top half.
The opposite side of the draw looks the more competitive. It includes last year’s finalists, winner Ivo Karlovic and runner-up Feliciano Lopez, plus the other beaten Wimbledon semi-finalist Sam Querrey and Fernando Verdasco.
The big servers performed well here 12 months ago but the court speed was on the slower side of average so I don’t think it’s essential to be looking to the likes of Karlovic for a potential champion.
I’m struggling to split the seeds in the bottom half but I’m much more bullish about the top half where the seeds look more vulnerable.
I’ve already spoken about Berdych but Albert Ramos-Vinolas, Adrian Mannarino and Frances Tiafoe (a player who has won only three main-draw matches this year) are hardly frightening the life out of the non-seeds on this surface.
A couple of names from further down the betting catch the eye.
Peter Polansky has been winning plenty of matches on the Challenger Tour of late and we saw with Federico Delbonis in Hamburg last week just what confidence brought about by match wins can do as he made the semi-finals at a big price.
However, it is also fair to say that Polansky is not at the same level as Delbonis and at 29 is never likely to be.
Instead, I prefer Thanasi Kokkinakis in this section.
The young Australian has had an awful time with injuries but like the aforementioned Kevin Anderson (see Washington preview) he’s now getting plenty of matches under his belt as he looks to return to the top 70, a position he reached as a teenager.
Many felt a couple of years ago that he was destined for much higher than that and his talent still suggests it could happen – if he stays fit.
This week looks to have provided him with a real chance to add to the confidence which began to build during the grasscourt season.
He beat Milos Raonic at Queen’s – a career-best win - and then took a set off Juan Martin Del Potro at Wimbledon.
Having also spent some time working with former Wimbledon and US Open finalist Mark Philippoussis of late, Kokkinakis looks wells prepared for a run in Los Cabos.
The draw certainly has given him a shot at doing so.
Facing Tiafoe first up is nothing to be scared of and if he wins that Polansky or Yasutaka Uchiyama would lie in wait. Both are outside the top 100.
Ramos-Vinolas, a clay specialist who has just two hardcourt wins this season, could follow in the quarter-finals but to me that’s a pretty good route for someone looking to gain match wins after an injury problem.
Kokkinakis is on offer at 40/1 (10Bet) and that looks worth a go.
Generali Open, Kitzbuhel, outdoor clay
I’ll cut to the chase here and suggest that Robin Haase looks a bet in Kitzbuhel where the 2017 ATP clay campaign draws to a close.
When previewing Gstaad last week, I touched upon the fact that certain players tend to play well at altitude and Haase was one of those mentioned.
He duly went on to reach the semis, blowing four match points in that match. In the end I was glad I hadn’t backed him!
But the point is Haase plays well at altitude where the balls fly and he gets another chance in such conditions this week.
Haase is a two-time winner in the Austrian ski resort and also has another semi-final appearance on his record.
He’s twice been a runner-up across the border in Gstaad (it is worth noting the Swiss event is played slightly higher) and so four of his five ATP finals have come at an altitude of higher than 700m.
That’s certainly a pattern and Haase, who beat top seed David Goffin last week, looks worthy of support at 16/1 (Paddy Power).
He looks to be in the better half of the draw.
Top seed Pablo Cuevas looks a ropey favourite to me following a couple of early exits in the past fortnight, while neither am I convinced by third seed Paolo Lorenzi.
He may be the defending champion but, as I’ve mentioned before on these pages, he’s won just two matches on clay against top-50 opponents this season and this week he’ll play under the pressure of knowing his ranking is going to take a hit if he doesn’t retain his crown.
I’m not going to get involved in the bottom half, one which includes Gstaad champion Fabio Fognini and the man he beat in that final, Yannick Hanfmann.
Philipp Kohlschreiber is also in the section, although he was last seen being booed off court in Hamburg after quitting with an injury while a set to the good in his semi-final.
Thomaz Bellucci could be worth chancing. He’s another who performs at altitude – he’s a two-time winner in Gstaad and has also won in Santiago (500m above sea level) and Geneva.
This will be only his second visit to Kitzbuhel (he lost his only match here 7-6 in the third back in 2013) but could be of interest to those prepared to ignore the fact he’s lost nine of his last 10 matches. I am not among that number, however.
Where to watch on TV: Washington - Sky Sports; Los Cabos - Eurosport
Posted at 2200 BST on 30/07/17.